The IoT company behind the curtain

Greenwave Chief Scientist Jim Hunter explores the promise of the Internet of things -- and the challenges it still faces

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There are over 3 million of those now in the field. We did hardware specifications. We did the industrial design. We did the software configurations. We got through integration testing because it's one company providing this product. We got software and hardware integration testing in a record time, in a matter of weeks versus a matter of months as the previous generation. What we do is we build reference designs.

This is an example of the reference design that we built for them to help them maintain that product, know more about that product and offer new services on that product to their consumer. The end result of that has been a highly successful product compared to previous generations as well as the ability to engage with more technology in the home.

There are three core pieces of Axon that when we talk about IoT, we talk about the underlying network and being able to maintain a network. That's a core for us for IoT. If you don't have the network you're going to have problems with everything else. For us, media and entertainment is also a core feature of IoT and quite possibly the only thing you could actually label a killer app. Third is the connected home, the automation.

Those three come together, they communicate exactly the same way. I mentioned the lightbulb is a lightbulb is a lightbulb. Through our API, if a developer knows how to turn on a light, the developer also knows how to manipulate a stream on a set-top box. It's the exact same API whatever we touch, horizontal across everything that we do. For us it's actually a fourth piece of this functionality that we talk about and that is mobile IoT, being able to bring remote sensors in the field that may be LTE and bring those to bear in certain solutions.

They've got this capability embedded in the Quantum Gateway, but what are they intending to do with it that turns into functionality for that consumer?

There's a challenge when you're a B2B2C company. You can empower them, you can engage them, you can partner with them but you sure can't tell them what their schedules are and what they're going to deploy. They have yet to activate that connected home feature. They absolutely use the networking piece of it. They absolutely use the media capabilities of this product, but the connected home is yet to be turned on by them, I think because they want to make sure they do it right. The use cases are around lifestyle, comfort, convenience, savings - anything that makes a consumer better off in their home. From our perspective, our platform easily is able to bridge.

Is it also a platform for third parties now to develop within that?

Absolutely. There are things that I can't talk about and if you just follow some of the press releases that Verizon has said about IoT and things they're doing in IoT, you should know we're smack in the middle of that.

You were going to mention another.

E.ON Energy, the biggest energy provider in Europe, has a solution that they now have deployed in the U.K. called E.ON Touch. Again, it's to make consumers more aware and make it easier for them to interact with their home. There are national commercials running on TV. That is all us. The reference designs that we've done have been anything from a single bridge where you have one protocol to Wi-Fi bridge, the Z-wave or the ZigBee plug-in module. It plugs right into the wall, nice and clean, to a free radio where you've got ZigBee, Z-Wave and Wi-Fi all in one device to a broadband router or a set-top box. We have form factor set-top boxes that are an HDMI stick. All of these are reference designed because the challenge of IoT is not just the connected home.

What's really interesting is to understand the real value that comes on top of this, when you now understand that everything across this horizontal space of IoT can now have layers of interactivity on top of it because we have a consistent language, because we have a consistent way of interacting with objects regardless of what those objects are. We're able to now layer on usability, for example, putting on something that is voice-driven, using something like VOX as a service; adding the ability to tie in social network, not a problem because our APIs and these data objects are, by their very nature, very semantically friendly.

When we talk about the way people communicate today and the way that they want to engage, what the industry is offering is different than what [consumers] actually maybe want. In fact they're suffering from something called app exhaustion. There was a study done not too long ago that shows, for the most part, users are not downloading new apps as much as expecting more from the apps that they have. We're seeing it globally. If I'm talking to my friends I should also be able to talk to my house in the same way, at least to the manager of my house.

We do demonstrations now where we're able to tie [Amazon] Alexa in and build sentences, nouns and verbs, adjectives and adverbs because of the way our object model is structured. We're also able to do the same thing with social -- turn off the outside lights or share the camera. It starts to change the relationship between people and technology because you don't have to go to your app every time.

That's a direction that we're really pushing, towards usability. It's something that a billion people understand versus a proprietary app. It's interesting because we're talking to companies that have 800 million customers who pay them a monthly fee for their service yet they're scared of the social networks because they say: 'Customers never download our apps; they'll download the social network apps'. We're seeing that more and more with the different generations, the different customer base that's out there.

It's important that a true horizontal application has the ability to bridge across all of those sectors and do so seamlessly so you really don't care, for all stakeholders. You don't care as an end user if you're turning on the lights or you're picking your TV show or you're saying lock down the network because John has been on the Xbox too long. Those should all be similar interactions.

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